It looks like Jimmy Carter won’t be among the living much longer. During his presidency, the 98 year old Carter was largely despised because he kept speaking inconvenient truths.
Now that he’s almost gone, he’s being reassessed and his reviews are largely positive. In the 1970s, he saw the coming climate crisis, and mostly symbolically added solar panels on the White House roof. As the Arab oil boycott made us sit in long gas lines and caused natural gas shortages, he told us to keep the heat at 65 degrees and encourage us to wear warm sweaters indoors, so fewer of us had to suffer. He was roundly mocked for saying he felt “lust in his heart” sometimes for women who were not his wife.
He constantly did the right thing, even when it cost him. The Camp David accords ended enmity between Egypt and Israel and has endured more than forty years. To his critics, he gave away the Panama Canal, but Carter knew it was an enduring symbol of American imperialism and actually hurt us.
The one thing that no one disputed about Jimmy Carter was that when it came to being a Christian, he walked the walk. He’s one of the few Christians I’ve met that actually earned the title. His Christianity was at the center of his life. Out of office, it formed the rest of his life. He worked for democracy, ensured fair votes where democracies were standing up, and ran a vast charity that built affordable houses for those who couldn’t afford them. Habitat for Humanity will long outlive Jimmy Carter. He never wanted to impose his values on anyone but wanted to spread the word about true Christianity through how Jesus lived it: by demonstration and compassion. That meant a deep respect for others, even when you did not agree with them.
He sees Christian Nationalism as ridiculous. The United States was clearly not designed to be a Christian nation. All one had to do was read the U.S. Constitution. Separating religion from state was perhaps our forefathers most brilliant achievement. It kept the religious wars in Europe far away from us. Europe was nearly entirely populated by Christians, but they spent much of their energy warring over fine theological points that didn’t matter. It killed at least tens of millions of them over centuries. Moreover, Christian Nationalist are pretty much entirely Christian fundamentalists and want those who aren’t to have fewer freedom than they have, if not entirely disenfranchised.
It’s quite clear where Christian Nationalists want us to go. They want only people like them (white and conservative) to be able to vote, but mostly they want to control what you can do. Florida Governor Ron Desantis is the poster child for what’s coming if we let them take control. They want indoctrination and they want you to lose your job and be impoverished if you disagree with them. Desantis isn’t waiting to see if this kind of revolution is possible, he’s making it happen in Florida right now.
It’s all about “freedom” but in an Orwellian way. Being free means taking away your freedoms. If you’re a public school teacher, you don’t enjoy the freedom to speak your mind in your classroom. He wants to make everyone a Christian, and to let the state help in the process, but it’s not a Christianity that Jimmy Carter would recognize. True Christianity requires deep compassion for all human beings, including and maybe especially for those whose theology you don’t share. Christianity is fundamentally about loving everyone, spreading kindness and helping others through life’s problems. True Christians don’t want kids to go hungry; they go out of their way to feed people that can’t feed themselves. They don’t assume that everyone should or can pick themselves up by their own bootstraps. They are about practicing love, not making lives miserable.
For Christian Nationalists though, misery because you don’t act like me is the whole point. To state the obvious to anyone who understands a modicum of religion, that’s not being religious. That’s being anti-religious. That’s not being loving. That’s being hateful. For millennia, countries have been trying to get people to be people they are not. All it causes is strife, war, great misery and death.
Nationalism is incompatible with Christianity. Christianity is universal. It doesn’t require that you live in the United States. It doesn’t care about your sex, age, race, religion, color of your skin or the clothes you wear. If you are a Christian Nationalist, you are divided against yourself. You can’t be both. My guess is at least 90% of Christian Nationalists are nationalists first, and Christianity is a distant second.
Jesus would not recognize Christian Nationalists as Christians. It’s abundantly clear that Jimmy Carter doesn’t either. If you are a true Christian, you are ecumenical and compassionate for everyone at heart. You ache to create a better world where all feel loved and part of a compassionate community that has your back for you when necessary and you see coming to understand Jesus’s message as the best way to create this environment. The abundant sadism of these Christian Nationalist is just sick. So many of these people are fine separating migrating parents from their children, and keeping these kids in cages. This is what Jesus would do?
We need far fewer Nationalists but we can never have enough true Christians. Unfortunately, the Jimmy Carters among us are few and far between and Christian Nationalists are moving us in exactly the wrong direction.
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